Why Do Some of Those Bent on Suicide Kill Many Others?

Susan Cooke

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand why some people who aren’t the usual terrorists but who want to kill themselves feel the need to use a truck (or guns or bombs) to mow down a lot of other people first. I understand there must be a severe mental problem in most who want to kill themselves, yet most don’t take a group of innocent strangers with them. All I’ve come up with so far (not being a a psychologist) beyond mental illness such as severe depression is that in this age of media attention, which offers some fame to those who might not otherwise feel they’ve made their mark on the world, mass killing is a surefire way to get that attention, maybe even worldwide. But what the people who do this don’t realize is that the attention often lasts a few days at most, and then their names are forgotten. Meanwhile they’ve destroyed life and happiness for hundreds–the victims and all their families and friends who loved them. If there’s a God, he/she probably would appreciate the person much more for doing good for humanity than for massive destruction of life. Even if the good performed is only within a small personal sphere, the person will be loved and appreciated in life by many, and after life in reputation.

Being appreciated by just a few dozen people at most isn’t enough for some, however. Yet it can take a lot of work or money to get really famous for doing good. Since most people who do a lot of good don’t become famous, what is it they get out of it? Research says a much happier life than many others, and that theory is part of what I bank on when I urge people to incorporate more kindness into their everyday lives, even if  they aren’t Mother Teresa. Not only does kindness help everyone they come in contact with, it makes their lives much better than if they don’t practice it. I’m not talking about saving the world, just small everyday kindnesses.

But can this be enough for the fame-hungry? Many people today are so hellbent on success or the fame or money associated with it they may find the notion of accepting an un-famous life hard to swallow, even if it’s a mostly good, happy, healthy life. I’m not saying all those people would kill a lot of others for fame of course, but I do wonder how much the worship of fame–even for those not quite aware they worship it–makes these crimes more likely.

For most of us, accepting a non-famous life might be one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. It can help us get off that treadmill that drags so many down with exhaustion, anxiety, and even addiction (which all that stress may make more likely, and make harder to recover from). Carrying this lighter emotional load would make more of us healthier, happier, and better able to enjoy the life we have.